Scotland is a treasure house of stories, from myths and legends to wee tales told to children at night. These strange and fantastical tales have inspired writers, artists and poets for centuries. Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson both recalled as adults the tales of ghosts, magic and witches they had heard as children. So, since it is National Storytelling Week we’ve hunted out a couple of tales of intriguing monsters and creatures to share with you all.
Firstly we look at the Stoorworm. This was a gigantic sea dragon which was said to demolish boats and even drag entire villages into the sea. The Stoorworm lived in the sea around Scotland and had to be destroyed. In the end a young lad, the son of a local farmer, killed the beast. He managed to sail into the heart of the beast where he set a fire. Eventually the dragon was in such pain he spat the lad out who struck the monster on his head with such force he apparently knocked him out for ten thousand years and a day.
The force of the blow knocked out the Stoorworms tongue and eyes and teeth. The tongue went east and landed between Scotland and Norway, which had been connected but were split apart from the force, creating the North Sea. The eye went west spinning round and round and created a whirlpool between Jura and Scarba which is now the Whirlpool of the Corryvreckan. The teeth fell one by one around Scotland and formed isles, islets and skerries which became the Shetland Islands, the Orkney Islands and the Hebrides. Meanwhile, the body went north and landed near the top of the world where the Arctic Ocean froze around it. The body still lies there below snow and ice as Iceland but every now and then when he is disturbed fire and smoke leaps up into the sky.
Some more familiar creatures are kelpies and selkies. Kelpies are supernatural water horses that haunt Scotlands lochs and rivers. They appear as a lost pony, often grey or white, and would entice people to ride on their backs before taking them down to a watery grave. Luckily they are easy to spot due to their constantly dripping mane.
Selkies meanwhile are creatures that can transform themselves from seal to human form and back again. In order to shapeshift selkies had to cast off their sealskins. Within these magical skins lay the power to return to seal form, and therefore the sea. According to legend if a man steals a female selkie’s skin she is in his power and can be forced to become his wife. However, because their true home is the sea, they will often be seen gazing longingly at the ocean. If the selkie finds her skin she can escape and return to her true home.
Finally we just had to include Scotlands most famous creature, Nessie. The Loch Ness monster is a large dinosaur-like creature which makes its home in Loch Ness. Sightings of Nessie have reportedly occured since the 6th Century with the first recorded sighting of the monster nearly 1,500 years ago in 565AD. It is said that an Irish monk, Saint Columba, was staying with some friends when he came across the locals burying a man by the River Ness. They explained that the man had been swimming the river when he was attacked by a “water beast” that had mauled him and dragged him under. Columba sent one of his followers to swim across the river and the beast came after him. Columba made a sign of the cross and commanded the beast not to touch the man and to go back at once. The creature halted and retreated, and the Picts praised God for the miracle.
Hopefully you enjoyed these tales. As always please like, share, comment, follow and if you want to learn more come along to Culloden on 6th February for storytelling and crafts covering all these legends and more. http://www.nts.org.uk/Culloden/Visit/Events/
All the best, K & D